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A Labor Day filled with uncertainty

Usually on Labor Day, people of the Southern Alleghenies region are winding down their summer activities and adjusting to the day-to-day realities of the fall and winter that lie ahead, with the knowledge that the busy holiday season awaits them.

Labor Day is a public holiday honoring the American labor movement and the contributions workers have made to the prosperity, strength and general well-being of this nation. Unfortunately, the 2020 version of this national holiday is like one not witnessed since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

While parades continue to mark this day that became an official federal holiday in 1894 ­­­­­– when 30 states already were celebrating this warranted recognition of workers’ efforts and dedication ­­­­­– troubling news is weighing on the minds of millions of Americans.

Despite some limited encouraging news at times, people of this land — those with jobs and the millions of people who have lost theirs — are hunkering down for what many believe will be protracted difficulties and uncertainties stemming from the current overall national situation.

Coronavirus and economic misery continues to undermine families from coast to coast as workers — the backbone of this country — wonder whether their savings will evaporate and whether their home ownership and other joys of life will be jeopardized before the existing crisis is resolved.

Over the decades, the Labor Day weekend has evolved into one of the year’s biggest sales times. However, families this year, more than any other year in recent memory, are seriously pondering whether it is wise to buy anything more than what they perceive to be their essentials.

Meanwhile, troubling developments continue to mount on the labor front, as the Wall Street Journal reported in its Aug. 29-30 edition by way of an article headlined “Layoffs resume as firms reassess outlook.” The article began as follows:

“A new wave of layoffs is washing over the U.S. as several big companies reassess staffing plans and settle in for a long period of uncertainty.”

One chief economist quoted in the article said “companies that thought they could either cut wages temporarily or cut costs temporarily or hold on are now finding out that the weakness of the pandemic is now longer that they hoped.”

As long as that viewpoint persists, the labor that this day honors will suffer difficult consequences, no matter what optimism might be proclaimed in Washington or on the presidential campaign trail.

According to the Journal, one survey of human-resources employees found that nearly half of U.S. employers that furloughed or laid off staff because of COVID-19 are considering additional workplace cuts during the next 12 months. And, an executive of a private equity firm told the newspaper that more than a few companies face the necessity of reinventing their businesses “in ways that they hadn’t done before.”

On Sept. 6, 2015, the Mirror reported that “sidewalk space in downtown Altoona was a hot commodity Saturday morning when droves of people lined 11th Avenue to watch as bands, local politicians and baton twirlers took to the streets for the Blair-Bedford Central Labor Council’s 97th Labor Day Parade.”

So much was upbeat then, so much is terribly uncertain now.

It is tragic that labor is being so victimized by a situation not of its making.

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